Iambik Discontinues Development of “LibriVox” Iphone App

Some of you have been using the Librivox Selections app produced by Iambik to enjoy selected audiobooks from the LibriVox collection. You may have noticed that some features in the applications have stopped working.

We have decommissioned this app, and will not be supporting it further.

As Iambik founder Hugh McGuire (who happens to also be the founder of LibriVox) explained, “We’ve decided to keep our attention focused on producing great new audiobooks in partnership with publishers, and the LibriVox app didn’t fit in with our focus. There are some very good audiobook apps out there already giving access to the LibriVox catalog, and we’d prefer to let app developers continue their good work, while we spend our time making more great audiobooks.”

Some alternatives include:

We’re sure there are many more; feel free to let us know what we’re missing in the comments.

We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you continue to enjoy our outstanding audiobooks.


LibriVox Selections iPhone App

LibriVox Selections logoIambik Audiobooks is pleased to announce the official unveiling of the LibriVox Selections iPhone App (cost, for now, $1.99). Description:

The best LibriVox recordings, all in one place. The app is 1.99, after that everything is free!

LibriVox Selections brings together a curated collection of hundreds of favourite audiobooks (mostly solo recordings) from LibriVox, the free public domain audiobook project.

This app helps you get to the best LibriVox recordings, mostly solo recordings with good sound quality.

Selections in this app are made by LibriVox founder Hugh McGuire and a group of trusted audio advisors.

I’ve heard so many times over the years about how hard it is to navigate through the huge LibriVox catalog to find the really good recordings. The LibriVox ethic is come one, come all for those making recordings, and that, truly is a wonderful thing. But not everyone wants readers changing from book to book. Not everyone is prepared for the other hiccups in LibriVox recordings: variable sound quality, and readers of a more amateur nature.

This app aims to solve that problem, by making the selections ahead of time, so that you can be confident of the quality of the recordings before you start listening. Depending on what we learn from this experience, we’ll consider moving into the mobile space with an iambik app.

Download and let us know what you think here.

Iambik in OverDrive: Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Libraries and More

OverDrive LogoSo we made it! Through our great distribution partners at OverDrive, iambik audiobooks are now popping up in online retailers around the world – including Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and Books-a-Million. We don’t seem to be in Borders, so I’ll have to check on that.

Further, any library using OverDrive’s LibraryReserve can get our books too. So, if you’re a librarian, or know one, perhaps you could suggest that that take a look at iambik audiobooks?

The bad news: our (lovely) square album art got squashed by OverDrive! We’ll fix that for the next release.

Here are some screengrabs:

Barnes & Noble:

iambik in Barnes & Noble


iambik in Waterstones


iambik in Books-a-Million

The Question of Revenue Share

At VoiceOver Extra, James Adams, CEO of BeeAudio production house, brings up the troubles with a new move to revenue share in the audiobook business, where publishers (like iambik) pay narrators through revenue share, rather than flat up-front fees.

James identifies three major problems with revenue share:

James Adams1. narrators should not carry the risk for a book, publishers should
2. royalty payments in James’ experience have been very low
3. uncertainty of the value of any given audiobook (see #1 above), and the inefficiency of the audiobook publishing process

A commenter adds a further point, I think worth noting as well:
4. if narrators have no say in marketing, then they have little control over the business side of the audiobook

I think James is right about a lot of this, but the business is changing. I responded to his note with the following:

My Response on Revenueshare

I’m the founder of a new audiobook company – iambik.com – that is working thus far completely on a revshare basis. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this.

First, I think you are right that given the choice between getting paid $X thousand dollars up front, and getting Y% of an uncertain sales figure, you’re probably better off taking the money up front.

Probably the ideal situation for a narrator is an X + Y = upfront + revshare.

The Audiobook Market is Changing

But I think, as some narrators have mentioned above, the industry is going to be changing drastically in the coming years. It’s going to face the same pressure that all content businesses face with the shift to digital, with two fundamental changes:

– growing supply (that is: more media on the market)
– declining prices

Now the hope is that it comes with increasing demand, but that remains to be seen. What is certain is that sales of digital audiobooks are growing at 25%, while hard copies are declining.


So there is no reason to expect that the audiobook market isn’t going to face all the hand-wringing and uncertainty that other industries – built on analog/bricks&mortar supply-chains – have faced with the move to digital, namely: price worries, and the realization that the traditional customer of publishers (bookstores), will be replaced by a new customer: listeners.

The result will be more uncertainty about the value of any given audiobook, and hence a growing hesitancy to pay our large advances, at least for everything that isn’t a sure hit.

Audible & iTunes

On top of this, Audible/iTunes now has a near-monopoly on digital audiobooks – and their terms with publishers are … not particularly favorable. So as the digital market grows, the squeeze happens everywhere. So: whither the audiobook business of the future?

The LibriVox Experience

My experience is as founder of LibriVox – where we built a big community of passionate amateur audiobook makers, and we’ve attracted a huge number of listeners – our site get 650,000 visits a month, and our most popular audiobooks have been downloaded more than a million times. These are free titles of course, but there’s something to the model, one we’re trying to adapt for commercial markets with iambik.

Working with Narrators at iambik

And in the case of iambik – we very much want to work with narrators and print publishers to market things together. We want to be efficient. And we want to be a great company to work with.

The big question is: will narrators make lots of money with us? Our bet is that if we focus on making it easy for narrators to do their work, and on paying close attention to the desires of audiobook listeners, we’ll be nimble enough to take advantage of the shift to digital, while finding new audiences. And that means a better chance of money for everyone.

Will we succeed? We shall see … I sure hope so, because one way or another, I think that revenueshare will be a big part of the future of audiobooks.

Why iambik doesn’t use DRM

We decided early on not to use digital rights management (DRM) at iambik audiobooks. Here is our explanation, adapted from what we sent to partner publishers who asked us about it. (*see below for a definition of DRM).

People who buy digital media — that is, our customers — don’t tend to like DRM much, though publishers seem to, and there is an awful lot of rhetoric about DRM afloat on the Internet, on both sides.

But for iambik, the decision not to use DRM is not rhetorical, but rather practical.

Your DRM Decision Is a Business Decision

Publishing is a business, so when a publisher makes the decision to use or not to use DRM, the decision should be based on this question: what is best in the long-run for my business?

It seems so often DRM gets tied up in moral arguments — on the one side you have the anti-DRM freedom fighters, on the other side you have the anti-piracy DRM absolutists. In schoolyard lingo, this is the battle between the “thieves” and the “fascists.”

While the moral arguments are interesting for philosophers, historians, sociologists, BoinBoing commenters, and others, for a business, the question must descend from moral abstraction at a certain point, and come back to the reality of deciding what is best for business.

What Is Best for Our Business Is What Is Best for Our Listeners

And it is our belief at iambik audiobooks that what is best in the long run for our business is what is best in the long run for our listeners.

If we do everything we can to make our listeners happy, we believe we will have much more success as a business, we will grow in a sustainable way, we’ll sell more audiobooks, and make more audiobooks, make more money for our partner publishers, narrators, and authors. And more money for ourselves. And more money means that we can keep doing what we want to be doing: bringing great audiobooks to people who want to listen to them.

Where Are the Studies Showing a Link Between Agressive DRM & Revenue Growth?

You often hear about studies claiming astronomical sums of publishing sales lost to piracy — with the implication that DRM is the best way to address that problem.

What you never hear about is studies showing an increase in revenue as a result of aggressive DRM policies. And if DRM doesn’t increase revenue, what’s the point?

DRM introduces cost into the system (adding DRM to your files means paying a DRM vendor for the right). It introduces complexity into the process of publishing digital files. That cost is passed on to the consumer, and more importantly the complexity is multiplied many times for the consumer.

The clear desire expressed by consumers is for digital files that they can use on whatever device they want, however they want, with as little headache or complications as possible. DRM blocks so many simple/obvious things that legitimate customers want to do. DRM almost always causes headaches, at some point.

So a publisher must ask: is whatever benefit might come from DRM worth the headache to my customers?

We’d Rather Spend Our Time Helping Our Customers

We say no, and we would much rather spend our time helping our customers find and buy great audiobooks, than blocking them from doing things that they rightly believe they ought to be able to do (eg. moving files from one device
to another, or passing on files to a friend or family member).

DRM has not proved effective in its implementation in other audio businesses, notably the music business which has, more or less, abandoned DRM.

This is the trend in audiobooks as well: the big publishers are going DRM-free for audiobooks. Macmillan is the exception, they are sticking to a hard-stance on DRM and piracy.

I predict Macmillan will spend lots of time & money fighting piracy, and eventually will find what other businesses that have done the same have found: in the end it is better to invest in meeting consumer demand than in fighting piracy.

Maximize Customer Happiness

But back to the beginning: our desire at iambik, as at any publisher, is to maximize happy customers, maximize sales, and maximize revenues for all our partners. We believe the best way to do that (and the best way to address piracy) is by making great audiobooks easily accessible and usable to the people who want them, at reasonable prices.

Without DRM.

* Definition: Digital Rights Management (DRM) in common usage is technology employed to limit how digital files can be used, generally used to combat unauthorized copying and sharing of files, or as the media industry likes to call it: piracy.

DRM is usually what stops you from moving your files from one device (say, your iPhone) to another (say, your daughter’s iPod), and is supposed to stop people from posting unauthorized copies of your music, books, movies, or other digital goods, to the Internet – for instance on bit torrent sites.